Alter Bridge + Living Colour

HiFi Bar, Moore Park NSW
February 25, 2014

A sold out venue in Sydney for this Sidewave had many musos and fans, not keen on the festival vibe, queuing around the block for a club shred fest. The PA rumbled Alice in Chains, Rob Zombie and Maiden tracks to the packed venue before the envelope pushing American rock band Living Colour graced the stage. ‘How y’all doing? We’re Living Colour from New York City’, began vocalist Corey Glover, sporting a tasty golf club-approved attire as guitarist Vernon Reid warmed up the slide guitar sound on his snazzy futuristic guitar before the full thump of the band hit. Opening with a cover of legendary bluesman Robert Johnson’s ‘Preachin’ Blues (Up Jumped the Devil)’, it was clear this was a musical appreciation first and foremost.

The funk rock of ‘Middle Man’ with Vernon unleashing a furious jazz metal solo that climbed and descended back to the rolling, grooving riff with little trouble was great. Drummer Will Calhoun, perched lower on the stage due to the venue size but hitting drums with strength was both easily audible and incredibly tight. An extended intro continued things, pounding out material from the 1988 album Vivid as ‘Desperate People’ bounced through time changes and more seriously mad guitar soloing, taken further with the song ‘Funny Vibe’, which had the bass power of Doug Wimbish playing his ass off and locking in with the drums to push out some serious funk, jazz and rock. Sticking with timed back catalogue chronology, a couple of tracks from Time’s Up whipped up a reggae vibe crossed with pre-hardcore punk before the lyrically witty and musically jazzy hit of ‘Love Rears It’s Ugly Head’ dropped some pure, suave brilliance. The next couple of tracks from Stain brought it back into the rockier material as ‘Go Away’ slammed the crowd with poignant lyrics and atonal guitar, aptly followed by ‘Ignorance is Bliss’.

‘Cult of Personality’ has lost none of its fire as the debut album track powered along with sheer intensity and Vernon weaved in and out of guitar prowess that must have inspired Rage Against the Machine to take up the baton. After pounding out ‘Time’s Up’, they really could do no wrong and so proceeded to cover James Brown’s ‘Sex Machine’, chucked in their own ‘What’s Your Favourite Colour?’ section and ended the set with a classic from The Clash in ‘Should I Say or Should I Go?’. The crowd lost their minds.

Living Colour was last here to play a one-off gig in Parramatta. Also, Reid was here as part of the Adelaide Guitar Festival’s Hendrix tribute show but to have the band here playing Soundwave and doing side shows with Alter Bridge was a real treat. The latter band had members watching from the side of the stage with their collective jaws dropped. It would have been icing on the cake to hear their more recent material live but maybe the next tour will be a headlining one.

So Alter Bridge had to follow Living Colour and to be fair, that was a pretty tough ask but overall, it is safe to say they managed it well. Both their musical pedigree and their sheer volume saw to it. The set changeover PA tunes in the sardine packed venue included Mötley Crüe, Heaven and Hell, early Metallica and Soundgarden’s ‘Jesus Christ Pose’, rudely interrupted by the band appearing onstage. Points deducted there but moving on, from the start, Alter Bridge were classy and loud. The drum kit that Scott Phillips was beating to death was revealed, perched between a stack of amplifiers. The vast majority of stage left was inhabited by virtuoso lead guitarist Mark Termonti’s amp cabinets, amp heads and effects gear, all of which almost guaranteed the volume of the PA was going to move innards.

Opening with ‘Addicted to Pain’ from latest album Fortress and followed by a three punch of down tuned heaviness and restrained ballad skills from three tracks in a row off the Blackbird album, vocalist Myles Kennedy proved, without doubt, why Slash picked him as a front man. Stage presence, singing vibrato, vocal strength and pitch perfect delivery. Not to mention his guitar playing capabilities, which both enhance and no doubt push Mark to better playing levels live as evidenced in the intro to newer song ‘Cry of Achilles’ that turned out to be one of the gig highlights with their fourth album material stronger than ever as the crowd sung along the chorus without being coaxed.

The next several bunch of songs crossed all albums before which Myles admitted to being happy to play with Living Colour while knowing trying to impress would be pointless as he so eloquently put it, ‘you just hold on for dear fucking life’. Their skill is in their song dynamics staying vibrant thus not sounding like more derivative rock bands that mainstream radio and their prior band history might lump them into for marketing purposes. ‘Waters Rising’ and ‘Broken Wings’ did well to compare newer and older material. Both had the crowd singing along, powerful riffing and interludes to build climax without delving into cliché. The instrumental ‘Metalingus’ might have been more suited to the musos present but closing out the main set with the ripping power of ‘Isolation’ after delivering ‘Blackbird’ and early track ‘Find The Real’ worked well. There were some great guitar tones and distinctly driving bottom end from bassist Brian Marshall who held down the fort over the back and forth, wah filtered guitar solos between Myles and Mark plus some crowd call and response banter.

Encore time hit and it was an initially sedate experience as the early power ballad ‘Open Your Eyes’ got the crowd singing back loudly. Newer track ‘Farther Than the Sun’ delivered more riffs and drumming power with cymbal and snare beatings in half time as more down tuned riffage ensued. Affectionately bagging out their guitar tech Ian, with a ‘Happy Birthday’ sing song was soon followed by a spell binding guitar solo head cutting duel between Mark and Myles that allowed Myles to prove his prowess as Mark still trumped him but they both cracked jokes along the way, verbally and musically. The show closed with the simply brilliant Alter Bridge track of ‘Rise Today’. It was loud, tight and melodic. Seeing Living Colour together with Alter Bridge was possibly one of the best hard rock and guitar virtuoso double bills to hit a club show in many years. Respect your elders, kids.

Living Colour:

Preachin’ Blues (Up Jumped the Devil)
Middle Man
Desperate People
Funny Vibe
Love Rears It’s Ugly Head
Go Away
Ignorance is Bliss
Cult of Personality
Time’s Up / Sex Machine
What’s Your Favourite Colour?
Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Alter Bridge:

Addicted to Pain
White Knuckles
Come to Life
Brand New Start
Cry of Achilles
Ghost of Days Gone By
Ties That Bind
Waters Rising
Broken Wings
Blackbird w/Watch Your Words
Find the Real

Open Your Eyes
Farther Than the Sun
Guitar Duel w/ Mark & Myles
Rise Today